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House supermajority wants separate voting on Cha-cha
The supermajority coalition in the chamber has decided to support the separate voting procedure as stipulated in Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
Boy Santos, file

House supermajority wants separate voting on Cha-cha

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives will pursue its plan to decide and vote on the proposed liberalization of economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution separately from the Senate.

The supermajority coalition in the chamber has decided to support the separate voting procedure as stipulated in Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

In a manifesto released on Thursday, leaders of political parties and power blocs expressed support for the
 proposed amendments to restrictive economic provisions of the Charter and said “the House of Representatives and the Senate shall vote separately.”

This settles the argument raised by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta that members of the House and the Senate should vote jointly on the proposed amendments.

House constitutional amendments chair Alfredo Garbin Jr. explained that joint voting is also prescribed in Resolution 580 in the Senate in the previous Congress, which stated that proposed amendments to the Constitution should “use the regular law-making procedure.”

In the same manifesto, the political leaders also vowed that the House would “deliberate only on the economic provisions” as specified in RBH 2 and that the proposed amendments would be submitted to the people for ratification simultaneously with the May 2022 national elections.

“We believe that now is the most opportune time to resume the deliberation on the amendments to the economic provisions specified under RBH No. 2 for the primary purpose of mitigating and providing lasting solutions to the devastating economic effects brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the manifesto read.

The leaders said they “remain firm in our resolve to utilize all means possible within the period left for the 18th Congress to adopt measures and introduce reforms that will provide the maximum benefit to the Filipino people and lead the country towards a robust and sustainable recovery.”

Signatories to the manifesto were House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez for Lakas-NUCD, Deputy Speaker and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Salvador Leachon, Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John Duavit for the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers for the Nacionalista Party, Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. for the National Unity Party, Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab for Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Deputy Speaker and 1-PACMAN Rep. Michael Romero for the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. and Aurora Rep. Rommel Rico Angara for the independent bloc.

Econ Cha-cha backed

Meanwhile, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution has voiced support for the proposed amendments to restrictive economic provisions in the Charter.

Bernardo Villegas, member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, explained that liberalizing the economic provisions of the Constitution would make the Philippines more enticing to foreign direct investors.

At a virtual forum dubbed “RBH 2 and Its Impact on Economic Liberalization” hosted by BusinessWorld last Friday, Villegas said the proposal would benefit the economy and help the nation recover from the recession caused by the pandemic.

Villegas cited the country’s agriculture sector, which badly needs direct foreign investments to improve output.

“China and our Northeast Asian neighbors are struggling with food security. They will need as much food as possible for their people, and Thailand and Vietnam are already taking advantage of this situation,” he stressed.

At the same forum, international trade lawyer Anthony Abad also supported the proposed amendments.

“There is a need to revise the Constitution. It is not written in stone to the extent that we are compromising our ability to alleviate poverty, to ensure that everyone is well fed. The capital has to be there; we cannot do it as a closed system,” he explained.

Abad lamented that the Philippines ranked highest in the 2019 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) FDI restrictiveness index. The FDI in the country accounts for only 6.3 percent of the entire FDI in Southeast Asia.

He argued that while a Constitution should provide limits to the powers of government, it should not hinder the ability of the government to act for the benefit of the country, especially in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Certainly having a Constitution which has this illogical arbitrary numbers restricting investments is not going to help attract the capital that we need,” Abad added.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), meanwhile, has expressed elation at lawmakers’ “overwhelming” support for its push for economic amendments to the Constitution.

“The support for economic constitutional reform during the first hearing of the House of Representatives was not split. It was overwhelmingly in favor,” DILG spokesman Jonathan Malaya said in a statement.

Malaya said there was bipartisan support for constitutional reform, with various leaders even crossing party lines to show their position.

He also noted growing support from the public for easing of economic restrictions, with over 500,000 signatures garnered by the DILG.

“There is strong public support for amending the Constitution. And we saw this when we did the campaign on the ground. We did activities in the field; that’s why we were able to raise all of these signatures,” the DILG spokesman added. – Romina Cabrera

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